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Scenes from the gold rush



Scenes from the Gold Rush is a collection of early photographs and daguerreotypes depicting life during the great California gold rush

Scenes from the Gold Rush is a collection of early photographs and daguerreotypes depicting life during the great California gold rush



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Scenes from the gold rush Scenes from the gold rush Presentation Transcript

    A nod of thanks to Bill Teie, Francis Carpenter
    And Bob Dylan
  • On an icy cold morning early in 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, picked up a few nuggets of gold from the American River at the site of a sawmill he was building for John Sutter near Coloma. By August, the hills above the river were strewn with wood huts and tents as the first of 4,000 miners lured by the gold discovery scrambled to strike it rich. Prospectors, from the East sailed around Cape Horn. Some hiked across the Isthmus of Panama, and by 1849, about 40,000 came to
    San Francisco by sea alone
  • It was here, in this sleepy valley, that the American Dream was re-defined. An accidental discovery near the obscure American River would forever change a young nation. The simple life would no longer be enough. In its place would come a new kind of lifestyle: entrepreneurial, wide-open, free. The new American dream: to get rich; to make a fortune--quickly. Instant wealth was here for the taking. All across America, young men made the decision to go to California.Every city, every hamlet would send its brightest, its strongest, to California--and eagerly await their triumphant return home. They came from Europe, Asia, and South America in search of instant riches. It was one of the greatest adventures the world had ever seen.
  • They came. And they came. Englanders came on anything that would float. Sometimes taking five months to round Cape Horn to get to San Francisco. They came from Michigan, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania. Miners from Georgia took the Santa Fe Trail and routes across Mexico. Those with money came by steamer to Panama, then by dugout and mule to the Pacific side of the isthmus for another steamer to San Francisco. By the end of 1849 there were 40,000 people in the mines. Disillusionment settled in because of growing problems with lawlessness and sickness.
  • As panning became less effective, the miners moved to more advanced techniques for extracting the precious metal. But it was a losing battle as the gold reserves were declining and the number of miners was increasing dramatically. The atmosphere of friendly camaraderie so prevalent a year or two earlier, was all but gone by 1850. Forty-niners who expected to make their fortune in a few days found themselves digging for month after month--year after year--with little to show for the effort. Frustration and depression was rampant.
  • Out of despair, many 49ers turned to poker and other forms of gambling in hopes of snatching the quick fortunes that had eluded them in the rivers. When that didn't work, many turned to crime. Jails, unnecessary a few years earlier, were soon filled. Hangings became common--almost matter of fact.
  • Most miners lived in tents and cooked their food over an open fire. Meals were usually beans, bacon or local game cooked over an open fire. Most camps and mining towns were canvas tents or wooden buildings. Fires were very common. Many camps and towns were completely destroyed by fire. Some several times.
    Heavy rain and snow during the winter months made for very difficult living and mining conditions. Most miners spent the winter in San Francisco or some mining town.
    Sickness and colds were common from sleeping on cold, damp ground. The food was not very nutritious resulting in generally poor health. Scurvy was common from lack of fruits and vegetables. Sanitation was poor and miners seldom bathed or washed their clothes.
  • Many gave up the dream and went home to the east. Others stayed on--just one more year they hoped. One more year and they'd strike it rich. And there were the occasional lucky strikes well into the 1850s--just enough good news to encourage the masses to continue digging. Most failed every day, but they kept on--year after year. Dejected, disappointed, many would never return home to loved ones back east--they would die in California, broken by a dream that never came true.